Three scientists have shared this year’s Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for discovering how cells respond to varying oxygen levels in the body, one of the most essential adaptive processes for life.
Congratulations are in order to Sir Peter Ratcliffe FRS, Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford and Director of Clinical Research at the Francis Crick Institute, who shares this prestigious award with William Kaelin Jr at Harvard University and Gregg Semenza at Johns Hopkins University. They have won for “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability,” according to the Nobel committee.
More information can be read in The Guardian article Nobel prize in medicine awarded to hypoxia researchers.
Professor Ratcliffe is due to deliver the Department's inaugural John Scott Haldane Lecture on Thursday 21 November 2019, with a talk entitled A hundred years on: 21st Century Insights into Human Oxygen Homeostasis.
From 1907 to 1913, Haldane was Reader in Physiology at Oxford. In 1911, along with C. G Douglas, with whom he worked in the Oxford Laboratory of Physiology, led an expedition to Pike’s Peak, Colorado, to examine the effects of low atmospheric pressure on respiration. They stayed at the summit house of Pike’s Peak (14,110 feet above sea level), in which they built a laboratory and investigated the process of acclimatisation of breathing to high altitude oxygen levels. Their discoveries revolutionised current ideas about respiration.
Professor Ratcliffe has led the hypoxia biology laboratory at Oxford for more than 20 years. The laboratory discovered the widespread operation of a system of direct oxygen sensing that is conserved throughout the animal kingdom and operates through a novel form of cell signalling involving post-translational hydroxylation of specific amino acids. Catalysis of these hydroxylations requires molecular oxygen and this generates the oxygen-sensitive signal.
More information on Sir Peter Ratcliffe and the Haldane Lecture can be found here.